Monthly Archives: December 2006

Speaking of red shirts at Target….

Or rather I was reminded of this at dinner the other night. A group planned an elaborate prank on Best Buy. They got a ton of people to dress in royal blue polo shirts and khaki pants and they all entered a Best Buy store in Manhattan at the same time. They didn’t do anything but stand around, but it caused all sorts of chaos and mayhem.

You can never be too rich or too thin

Or can you?

HBO has a documentary out called simply “Thin.” I heard about it when I was at the Dr’s office and read an article about it in People (yeah, I know, not very high-brow, but it was between that and some fish and game mag). Thin concerns four young women who suffer from eating disorders as they are being treated at Renfrew. It’s a fascinating documentary, harrowing at times–the worst bit is toward the end where Brittany (the youngest of the four subjects who at under 100 pounds wants to lose 40 more) is in her last group therapy session. Three of the subjects have been active in forums and such, but I can’t find out what happened to to Brittany, whose interviews still haunt me.

Really, really worth seeing.

Zucchini squares

Made these for my book club. Zucchini squares are one of my mom’s standbys. Trouble is I’ve always screwed them up somehow. I think I have the technique down now, though.

Zucchini Squares

3 cups thinly sliced unpared zucchini*
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1 clove garlic minced
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 tbsp fresh chopped parsley
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp marjoram (dried)
1/4 tsp basil (dried)
1 1/2 tsp oregano (dried)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 9 x 13″ oblong pan. Combine dried ingredients. Mix eggs and oil together. Add dried ingredients slowly. Stir zucchini, onion, and garlic into the mixture until incorporated. Pour into pan and bake for 30 to 35 minutes. Cut into pieces and serve.

*I halve the zucchini and then slice.

Lemon-pine nut crescent cookies

As of Saturday, I finished my annual cookie baking. My back is still not quite recovered, but the kitchen is clean, and the cookies? They are done.

I’m adding this one to the rotation:Lemon-Pine Nut Crescents. The dough came together beautifully; the crescents were a snap to form; and the result is a light, airy, refreshing little cookie. My only complaint is that the recipe yield is low.

Really great advice in this article. Too bad I only saw it after I was done baking.

And so it begins…

The only part of Christmas that really gets to me is making cookies. I find the rest of it easy enough. Cards I write out in front of the TV. The tree is fun to put up (okay, I have a Martha Stewart like obsession with hanging the tinsel just so, but that’s just my own neuroses at work). I hate shopping, but usually once you get away from the mall, the insanity fades away. No, it’s the cookies.

I blame my late grandmother for that. Grandma made fantastic Christmas cookies. Every year she’d produce multiple types of cookies. My mom is an excellent cook. She excels at dishes that need to cook for a long period of time. Cookies? Not so much. Inevitably, it got to be too much for my grandmother to bake. I wanted to keep up the tradition. Reader, I volunteered.

As my former middle-school science teacher once instructed the boys in our class, never volunteer. He also advised them to screw up dinner if ever asked to help with that. “Mess it up,” he said, “and you’ll never be asked to help out in the kitchen again.” But I digress.

I volunteered and surprise, surprise, I was successful at it. So successful that every Christmas whenever I try to scale back on the holiday baking, I get “Oh, you’re going to make the Mexican Wedding Cakes, aren’t you? I love those.” Or, “Your uncle loves those chocolate spice cookies” and “Rum balls, make rum balls.”

The problem with all of these damn cookies is that most of them are multi-step. Or they require me to encase my fingers in dough to form them. I never do the ingredient shopping correctly. Invariably I have to make emergency trips to the store for things like ground clove, but still end up with extra bags of confectioners’ sugar and baking chocolate. Every bowl, measuring cup, and cookie sheet have to be cleaned over and over again. Don’t even get me started on the kitchen floor or my aching back.

Anyhow, the rum balls are done. They’re the easiest of any of the cookies I make and they are yummy. Here’s the recipe. I got it from my mom, but it no doubt originated elsewhere.

Rum balls

1 cup vanilla wafer crumbs
1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
2 tbsp cocoa
1 1/2 tbsp white corn syrup
1/4 cup *rum

Mix cookie crumbs, nuts, sugar, and cocoa. Add corn syrup and rum and stir until combined. Using your hands, shape into small balls. Roll cookies in additional confectioners’ sugar. Store in airtight container in the refrigerator. Makes 2 dozen.

These can be made a week ahead of time.

*Can substitute bourbon in a pinch.

Suitcases

One of my colleagues sent this link to me. It’s the haunting and fascinating Willard Suitcase Exhibit Online. Willard was a state psych hospital and after its closing, workers found a bunch of suitcases and trunks in the building’s attics. Apparently these were the belongings of the patients that they brought with them when they were admitted. Many of these patients never left the facility.

The history of the treatment of the mentally ill always gets to me. A number of these patients were admitted when they really didn’t suffer from mental illness. There’s one account of a man who was a Japanese sailor on leave who got lost in New York. He didn’t speak English and people thought he was behaving oddly. He was sent to Bellevue and then moved to Willard. He stayed there for over 30 years.

Chilling.

Suitcases

One of my colleagues sent this link to me. It’s the haunting and fascinatingWillard Suitcase Exhibit Online. Willard was a state psych hospital and after its closing, workers found a bunch of suitcases and trunks in the building’s attics. Apparently these were the belongings of the patients that they brought with them when they were admitted. Many of these patients never left the facility.

Baby Face

TCM was airing a pre-code gem the other night: Baby Face. Barbara Stanwyck plays Lilly, the girl from the wrong side of the tracks who will do anything to get on the right side of the tracks. In true, pre-code fashion, it is made explicitly clear that she sleeps her way to the top of an office building–literally. It’s a hoot to watch. George Brent plays the male protagonist and is well, George Brent. Early George Brent. I think he became more memorable as he aged and started playing more character roles. Here he’s totally outmatched by Stanwyck.

One thing I really love about this film is how very unrepentant Lilly is. She doesn’t give two hoots about any of the men she uses or what befalls her. She is loyal to her friend (played ably by in Theresa Harris). There’s a tacked-on ending that reportedly was added to shut up the Hayes Office (the Production Code given teeth by then and 1934 was the start of the new regime’s reign of terror er…power), but it doesn’t negate the rest of the film’s impact.

Now this is an industrial video!

One of the LIS grad students who works at our library helped created this hysterical irreverent set of videos for a class. Entitled “Managerian,” and inspired (I am told) by some of the less than stellar industrial library training films created in the early 90’s, it can be viewed here.

Cranberry sauce, not just for Thanksgiving

One of the recipes I tried for Thanksgiving was for a tart cranberry onion relish, which I thought was a nice change from my usual follow-the-directions-off-the-package-cranberry-sauce. I wasn’t sure how well the new one would be received so I made both. Turns out my guests much preferred the tart cranberry and scarfed all of it down. As I had another bag of cranberries, I decided to make some just for me.

cranberries (fresh or frozen) – 12oz
sweet onion – chopped
red currant jelly – 12 oz
1/4 cup cider vinegar
2 to 4 tbsp sugar (to taste)

Mix all ingredients in a pot. Bring to a boil, covered. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered till the berries have popped (approx. 5 min). Remove from heat and cool uncovered. Transfer to a bowl and chill covered for about a day.

(c)Gourmet Magazine

Darn simple to make and very tasty. I erred on the side of caution and only used 2 tbsp of sugar. Served it with the porkchops I fried up on the stove along with steamed rice and some green beans. I still have oodles of turnips so if I make those pancakes again, I think I’ll use some of the cranberry relish.